If you live in the United States, speed limits are one of the most important rules of the road. Violating them can result in fines, and repeated offenses can even lead to loss of a driver's license.
In addition, speed limits are heavily enforced in the United States, and new technologies have led to more effective enforcement. Here are some important things that you need to know about speed limit enforcement and how it has changed over the years.
The History of Speed Limit Enforcement
There Were No Variable Speed Limits
Variable speed limits are common today, but this was not always the case. In fact, the first variable speed limit was created in 1965, and this was in Germany. Currently, variable speed limits are common in work zones and areas near schools, but this was not the case anywhere prior to 1965.
Radar Was Not Always Used
There was a time when radar enforcement was not yet common, and sometimes this prevented accurate measurement of the driver's speed. However, officers with a significant amount of experience in the field were sometimes able to accurately estimate the speed of a car by observation, but this was not always a reliable indicator of how fast a driver was actually traveling.
How Are Speed Limits Enforced Today?
While there are a variety of ways that speed limits can be enforced nowadays, these are the primary methods that are used by law enforcement agencies.
Aircraft enforcement of speed limits is often highly effective since people don't see the aircraft that is making the observations. Either radar or observation can be used to make accurate aircraft measurements of speed. In some cases, signs are posted that speed limits are enforced by aircraft, but areas where this type of speed limit enforcement are not always marked.
Often, enforcement of speed limits is done using radar from a police officer who is hidden from view. In order for radar measurements to be accurate, the device that's used for measuring a driver's speed must be calibrated properly. Law enforcement agencies began using radar to measure the speed of vehicles in 1954, and the first jurisdiction for it to be used in was Chicago.
Another type of instrument, called Lidar, has become more common in recent times. This technique uses lasers to effectively estimate the speed that a vehicle is traveling at, and it's considered to be one of the most accurate forms of speed enforcement.
In one observation technique, the officer is located on the side of the road, and they observe the amount of time that it takes vehicles to travel between two points. While observation is generally not the go to method of speed limit enforcement, it can be utilized in some cases, and Pennsylvania still does not allow municipal police officers to use radar to measure speed. Another observation technique involves an officer examining the distance between their patrol car and the vehicle that they are observing to estimate how fast the vehicle is traveling.
While speed camera systems are not yet a standard practice in the United States, they are in some areas of the world, even though it's likely to become more common in the near future. There are a variety of reasons for this, and one of the most important ones is that speed camera systems appear to have a significant influence on the way people drive even when they aren't being observed directly.
How Many Areas In The United States Use Automated Enforcement?
There are a large number of areas in the US where this type of enforcement is used, and there are currently more than 92 jurisdictions that use automated enforcement for speeding tickets. Some of these jurisdictions are making a strong impact on how speed limits are enforced within populated areas.
How Much Does Automated Enforcement Reduce Accident Rates?
The specific amount that accident rates are reduced varies from one region to another, but crashes that result in injury could be reduced by somewhere between 28 and 48 percent. The incidences of these crashes that cause property damage but not injury may be reduced by as much as 46 to 56 percent. Crashes that caused serious physical injury have become 11 to 44 percent less common, and this reduction could be capable of saving many thousands of lives.
How Much Slower Do People Tend To Go In Regions Where Automated Enforcement Is Used?
It was found that drivers went an average of 1 to 15 percent slower in regions where speed camera systems were utilized, which is enough to result in less serious injury and death as a result of crashes. The reason for the variability is that the effect of speed camera systems on drivers significantly varies depending on the type of roadway that it is being implemented on.
How Long Does It Take Jurisdictions To Implement This Enforcement?
The specific amount of time that it takes to implement the changes varies from one region to another, but it is often somewhere between four and six months to both plan and integrate speed camera systems for speeding tickets. It's likely that it will take less time to integrate this technology in the future due to improvements in various types of technology.
How Long Do The Cameras Reduce The Speed Of Drivers?
In addition to causing drivers to go slower in the areas where speed camera systems are in place, people often tend to go slower for a significant distance beyond the zone of automated enforcement, and this can substantially reduce the frequency of accidents.
What Can We Expect In The Future When It Comes To Speed Limit Enforcement?
While it is difficult to predict what the future will bring when it comes to the enforcement of speed limits, these are some changes that we can expect in the future.
Speed Limits Are Likely To Change
As new technologies are implemented that make driving at higher speeds safer, it's possible that the speed limit in some regions will be increased. However, higher speed limits may mean more accidents, and a study showed that increased speed limits may have led to as many as 37,000 more accidents. In addition, the average American vehicle is now more than ten years old, and this means that it's uncertain whether or not vehicles of the future will handle better.
Radar Will Become More Accurate
Not only is radar likely to become more accurate, but it's likely to advance in ways that allow officers to take measurements from a larger distance away. Furthermore, it's likely to become even easier for radar measurements to be transmitted using the internet due to the increasing availability of cell phone signals.
Satellite Enforcement May Become Common In the Future
Satellites could monitor entire roadways with ease, and this would remove much of the burden of monitoring roadways from law enforcement agencies. Currently, satellite enforcement of speed limits is already being implemented in the UK through a program called Speed Spike.
This program uses satellites to capture the speed of drivers on two stretches of road, and the system will work regardless of the weather. Furthermore, the satellite program can also detect your speed at night, and that's because the satellites are capable of seeing more than just visible light. While sending satellites into space is currently quite expensive, this may change in the future, and this could put it within the budget of local governments.